8 Ways to Prevent High Energy Bills This Winter

When you live in a cold climate, a fair portion of your budget goes to keeping you and your family warm and staving off the arctic temperatures.  Of course, no one wants to pay more than they need to.  The key to lowering your energy consumption in the winter is to take action early in the season.  Now is the perfect time.

An Ounce of Prevention. . .

One of the best ways to use less energy is to look for silent money drains.  Do you have a drafty old door?  If you can’t afford to install a new one, consider installing weather stripping at the bottom to keep out the cold.  If you don’t want to spend the money for that, you can put something by the door to block the cold such as an old towel, though weather stripping would work better.

Likewise, an easy, fairly frugal solution for drafty old windows is to install plastic window covers.  You’ll keep the cold out and save a bundle on energy bills.  If you don’t like the look of plastic on your windows, heavy thermal curtains can also do a good job of keeping out the cold.

Don’t forget to also insulate your pipes, especially around your water heater.

Caulk any areas where drafts might seep in such as where your floor and wall meet if the two have started to pull away from each other as they tend to do in old houses.

Comparison Shopping

Don’t forget to also take the time to comparison shop.  You likely have several energy providers you can choose from.  Don’t assume that the company you went with last year will automatically offer you the best rate.  Instead, take the time to comparison shop using an online tool such as the one at Totally Money and see which will offer you the best deal.

If possible, consider signing up for the company’s budget plan.  Then, you can pay the same fixed rate every month rather than being susceptible to high energy bills in the winter and low ones in the spring and fall.

Bundle Up

If you’re someone who likes to keep your home toasty so you can wear t-shirts and shorts all winter, please reconsider.  Instead, drop your heating temperature by a few degrees and wear long pants and a shirt and sweater or sweatshirt.  Some people even invest in thermal long underwear to wear under their pants at home so they can keep the temperature even a bit lower.

Even better, MSN suggests installing an automatic thermostat so you can drop the temperature significantly when you’re at work and bump it up an hour or so before you come home so your home won’t be uncomfortably cold.

Saving on your energy bill not only helps you keep more money in your wallet, but just as important, it helps you use less of Earth’s natural resources.  Curbing your energy consumption is a win-win on many levels.

What are your favourite tips for saving on energy usage?

Like What You See? Share the Story!

Save Water by Using a Rain Barrel

Are you a fan of sustainability and being eco-friendly? Then you’ll love this idea. Most of us have rain gutters on our houses. It keeps the water from running down onto our heads when we walk out the door, and it helps transport all that water away from our house, rather than constantly dripping right next to our foundation.

So where is your rain gutter sending your rain water? For many of us, the spout is about 12 inches away from our house, and is just simply pointed away from dwelling place. It works well, but guess what? By doing this, we’re wasting a very precious resource.

The Resource of Water

Many of us forget just how precious water is. What if you didn’t have a shower? What if you didn’t have a faucet that just squirted water out at your bidding? I’m sure you’ve seen videos of those poor countries that have to walk for miles just to get to a fresh water source. They then fill up one or two buckets for their families and haul it all the way back home. This water is not flowing through a faucet or coming out of a shower head. Nope, it’s definitely much more labor intensive.

The way we use water today is quite wasteful. We take long showers, leave the water running the whole time we brush our teeth, and we might even water our lawns for hours at a time. Rather than being so wasteful, why don’t we do the best we can to preserve our fabulous resource of water?

The Rain Barrel

A rain barrel is an incredibly simple too, but it’s unbelievably effective. Instead of just pointing your water spout away from your property and letting the water flood into your yard, why not shorten up that trough a little bit and run the water into a rain barrel? This barrel is most commonly a 55 gallon drum will a screen on top that will filter our any sticks or leaves that might come through your rain gutters. Obviously, this simple filtering system doesn’t make the water safe for drinking, but it makes it perfectly safe for watering your garden or your plants around the house.

When I first heard of the rain barrel, I wondered how you got the water out. Most of these barrels come with a short hose that’s attached to the bottom of the barrel and the water is emitted by the simple power of gravity (as I said, this barrel is very simple). So, there is some pressure there, but only what gravity will provide. Think of it as a big Gatorade jug. There will be some pressure, but it’s definitely not a pressure washer.

With this barrel, you’ll not only be reducing your water usage, but in doing that, you’ll also be reducing your monthly bills! All it takes is a simple barrel at the end of your gutter system and you’ll be doing good things for the environment and saving a little money in the process!

Like What You See? Share the Story!

How (and Why) You Should Teach Your Kids about Personal Finance

It’s often lamented that “kids these days” don’t know the value of a dollar, nor do they know how to properly save. If you currently have children living at home, a strong foundation in personal finance is one of the most important lessons you could teach them, one that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Not sure how to go about teaching them how to properly manage their money? Read on to find out!

Basics of Budgeting

First things first: if your kid doesn’t know how to set up a budget and follow it, then the rest of the financial lessons below probably won’t be taken too seriously. Budgeting can be a dry activity, but using a system of stickers or rewards (depending on your child’s age) can encourage them to stay positive and follow through on their goals. All it takes is a simple chart of their income and outflow and some mechanism for tracking their progress toward their savings goals.

Savings Habits: Start Young

Speaking of savings, one of the biggest problems facing teenagers and twentysomethings today is debt. Whether it’s from taking out too many student loans or abusing the credit card privilege, venturing out into the “real world” with a massive load of debt on your shoulders makes life much more difficult. To teach your kid the true value of saving money, start with the classic: an allowance. Getting money in exchange for work is a basic, but crucial lesson for later in life. If money is tight, consider restricting their allowance to a few dollars per week, and maybe even offer a parental match for every dollar saved (similar to the 401(k) match some employers offer as an incentive for their employees to save for retirement). This way, they’ll approach saving as a fun activity that can eventually lead to a big purchase, rather than seeing it as a chore.

Coupon Clipping 101

Who says coupons are only for adults? Although coupon clippers are generally portrayed as stay-at-home moms, the whole family can get involved! Whether it’s surfing online for coupons at sites or browsing through stacks of newspapers for sweet deals, clipping coupons together as a family not only saves money when it comes time to shop, but it also encourages a frugal approach to shopping.

Encourage Entrepreneurial Spirit

Lemonade stands in summer, cookie and hot cocoa stands in winter. It seems simple enough; but why stop there? Kids have wild imaginations and what better way to harness that creativity than through a productive, entrepreneurial outlet? Whether it’s hosting an art show for family members and auctioning off their masterpieces, tutoring younger siblings or neighbors, cleaning yards/pools/houses/cars/etc., caring for animals (or, my personal favorite, setting up a balloon animal stand and selling creations at $1 each)…all of these are viable sources of income and teach kids to do more than wait for a job to appear; they have to go out and make their own opportunities.

Nip Impulse Purchases in the Bud

Kids and teenagers are notorious for exhibiting a lack of restraint when it comes to buying things they want (especially when it’s not their money). This bad habit, if left unchecked, could follow them into adulthood, spelling disaster for their finances. By teaching your kids the difference between “wants” and “needs” (as well as sticking to a budget, as mentioned previously), you could save them a lot of headache and debt later on.

Like What You See? Share the Story!

Why You Should Go International with Your Online Business

There are businesses throughout the world competing with each other for the attention of their market. Businesses no longer remain local when trying to market their products. Unless you have a business selling services to a local audience, there is no reason why you should not engage the international stage with your company. In the worst case scenario, you do not make any money beyond the local population. In the best case scenario, you are able to start selling around the world to an ever-growing section of the population that loves what you have to offer. To make it work, make sure you are marketing effectively, work on shipping costs and be prepared to start ramping up production. If successful, you will be thankful you tried.

Market Effectively

One essential rule in business is that you cannot ever expect business to come to you, so you need to find ways to get more business. This means marketing to the people who are most likely to buy from you. Developing a good marketing solution means utilizing all the tools at your disposal. Make sure you include social media, blogs, good website design, videos and more in your marketing strategy. Also, make sure you are able to start marketing in more than one language. The more you are able to engage people in their native language, the easier it is going to be to bring in more attention for your business.

Work on Shipping Costs

Your profits vary a great deal if you are paying for shipping costs around the world as opposed to down the street. Keep this in mind as you are pricing items and when deciding how much you will charge to cover shipping and handling. One good way you can be sure you are lowering your shipping costs is through fulfillment shipping. This is where you ship a massive freight of goods to a country for a discounted rate. Once in the country, the goods are shipped as ordered for a lowered rate.

Be Prepared for More Work

If all of your efforts are successful, there is a good possibility you are in for a mountain of new work to accomplish. It will do no good to bring in a lot of orders and sales if you cannot even fulfill them. Start stockpiling products to ship out as soon as the orders start rolling in. This way, you will not be playing catch up. If you realize that the orders are coming in faster than you can make replacement products for your stockpile, start hiring people and creating new manufacturing methods. If you are lucky, your business will grow as you fill more requests and win the hearts of satisfied customers.

As long as you are marketing effectively, lowering shipping costs and preparing to be busy, you are ready to enter the International markets. Starting down this road can easily lead to an ever-growing business.

Like What You See? Share the Story!

Self-Sustainability

I think that many would agree with the statement, “This world is facing some large uncertainties in the near future.” Obviously that’s a pretty general statement, but who could disagree? Take a look at the debt of our surrounding countries? The USA had a national debt of $12 trillion in 2008. Now it has already sky-rocketed to $17 trillion! And, that number is not going to come down any time soon. It’s just going to keep growing! If the US self-destructs, then the rest of the world will probably end up coming down with it.

So What Can We Do?

As a single individual, there is not a lot you can do to change the national debt of a country. Heck, it might even be tough to impact the financials of your best friend. So, what power do you have to protect yourself and your investments? The best thing you can do is become self-sufficient and live on the resources that God gave you, rather than the artificial power and energy that is provided by large corporations and the government.

Now, I don’t want to be one of those radicals that has 5 years’ worth of dried food in their basement with riot gear and an assortment of guns. I’m not proclaiming doomsday. I’m just saying that it might be a wise idea to move your dependence from the government and take a little more responsibility for your own survival in this world. You could gain a lot from increasing your self-sustainability, and there’s really nothing to lose!

How to Become Self-Sustainable

For most of us, we live in a naturally green area that has water available right below our property. Why not install a well in your backyard? The water is completely free and you could use it to sprinkle your yard, water your garden, or even use it to freshen up if your city water fails on you.

Another area of self-sustainability is a garden (as I alluded to in the previous paragraph). You could grow many things that would provide nutrition to your body and it would keep some more money in your pocket (especially if you’re watering your plants will well water). You could grow green beans, tomatoes, squash, strawberries, and many other different varieties of fruits and veggies. Plus, by growing them yourself, you’ll know that there aren’t any pesticides that were used on them. You could grow them all-natural and do your body a favor in comparison to those genetically re-engineered fruits and veggies from the store.

So you might be wondering about electricity? Well, our early ancestors survived without it, so I’m sure you could too. As long as you have a fireplace in your home, I bet you could make it through each season just fine. If, however, you simply couldn’t do without it, there always is the option of solar panels. These can produce about half of your daily use of electricity today, so if you can find a way to survive on less, perhaps this would be a good way to go as well.

In short, don’t be the person that’s running around proclaiming that the world is going to end, but just to be safe, do your due diligence in creating a more sustainable lifestyle. The more you can provide for yourself, the safer you will be, no matter what happens or doesn’t happen in the future.

Like What You See? Share the Story!